Al-Qaida Operative Captured in Iraq in 2004 Was Key Source for ID’ing Bin Laden Courier
(CNSNews.com) – Information from an al-Qaida operative named Hassan Ghul, captured in Iraq in 2004, provided the “key moment” in identifying the notorious courier that ultimately led to the killing of Osama bin Laden, a U.S. government official confirmed to CNSNews.com.
Further, the official said, high ranking al-Qaida operatives Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) – the mastermind of 9/11 -- and Abu Faraj al-Libi, each tried to mislead interrogators about the courier, whose nickname was Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. KSM identified al-Kuwaiti as not important, while al-Libi declined even knowing him. This greatly conflicted with what other detainees had said.
The Obama administration -- immediately after announcing Osama bin Laden had been killed by a team of Navy SEALs at a well-fortified compound in Pakistan -- identified the courier as a protégé of KSM.
Jose Rodriguez, former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center from 2002 to 2005, told Time magazine in an article published earlier this week that, “Information provided by KSM and Abu Faraj al-Libi about bin Laden’s courier was the lead information that eventually led to the location of [bin Laden’s] compound and the operation that led to his death.”
KSM, one of three terror suspects who were waterboarded, provided information about the courier months after the waterboarding had ended, the official said.
“At no point did KSM say this guy is a courier for bin Laden. It didn’t happen,” the government official said. KSM disclosed the courier’s nickname but apparently did not disclose his function in relation to Osama bin Laden.
“It depends on how you define lead information,” the official told CNSNews.com. “One of the values of the program is the ability to compare and contrast comments from different detainees. So, in this case it’s almost what they didn’t say and what they’re trying to hide that we were also able to key on to.”
The Boston Globe reported on a 2005 memo from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel that states the CIA used enhanced interrogation techniques, which included facial slaps, sleep deprivation, and pushing into a wall on a terror suspect named “Gul,” who is Hassan Ghul.
“The interrogation team ‘carefully analyzed Gul’s responsiveness to different areas of inquiry during this time and noted that his resistance increased as questioning moved to his knowledge of operational terrorist activities,’” said the memo, which was first reported by ProPublica in 2009.
ProPublica, an investigative news organization, said “the heavily redacted OLC memo dated May 30, 2005, government censors appeared to have missed a single reference to his name and confinement during a lengthy description of the interrogation techniques used against him. The reference can be found at the bottom of page 7 where Ghuls surname is spelled ‘Gul.’”
Various detainees in the CIA secret prison identified the courier “al-Kuwaiti” as an important al-Qaida operative, the Associated Press reported this week. When the CIA captured KSM, the number three man in the al-Qaida network, KSM admitted to knowing al-Kuwaiti but “minimized the courier’s importance” and said he was retired from the organization, the government official said.
Then in January 2004 in Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi officials captured Ghul who, according to NBC News, was one of the top 20 al-Qaida leaders called “The Gatekeeper,” responsible for providing money, transportation, and safe haven to al-Qaida terrorists, and providing assistance to Abu Musab Zarqawi, an al-Qaida leader in Iraq at the time.
Ghul was traveling from Pakistan into Iraq, the official told CNSNews.com, and “became relatively cooperative rather quickly.”
Ghul admitted to knowing al-Kuwaiti as someone who had worked with al-Libi and was a close and trusted associate of Osama bin Laden who ran errands for bin Laden before and after 9/11, the official said.
More than a year later, May 2005, Pakistani intelligence forces captured al-Libi, the new number three man in al-Qaida. Al-Libi was reportedly also subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. However, he insisted he did not know who the courier al-Kuwaiti was and gave interrogators a name that CIA officials believe was fictional, the official told CNSNews.com.
The official said the discrepancies between the bulk of detainees and particularly the information from Ghul – who identified the courier as a close associate of bin Laden – functioned as a tip off, because neither al-Libi nor KSM were forthcoming about the courier when the CIA had information suggesting that they should know more about the courier given their number three status in al-Qaida.
After Ghul was arrested in early 2004, President George W. Bush said, “Just last week we made further progress in making America more secure when a fellow named Hassan Ghul was captured in Iraq. Hassan Ghul reported directly to Khalid Sheik Mohammad, who was the mastermind of the September 11 attacks. He was captured in Iraq, where he was helping al-Qaida to put pressure on our troops.”
The 9/11 Commission Report referred to Ghul as an “al Qaeda facilitator.”
The Washington Times reported on Jan. 23, 2004 that Ghul “also was involved in the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.”
CIA Director George Tenet testified to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Feb. 24, 2004 that Ghul was “a senior facilitator who was sent to case Iraq for an expanded al-QA`ida presence there.”
In 2005, Human Rights Watch (HRW) included Hassan Ghul on a list of 26 “ghost prisoners” the organization believed were in U.S. custody. The group identified those on the list as “detainees who are not given any legal rights or access to counsel, and who are likely not reported to or seen by the International Committee of the Red Cross.”
Further, the HRW report complains, “Under international law, enforced disappearances occur when persons are deprived of their liberty, and the detaining authority refuses to disclose their fate or whereabouts, or refuses to acknowledge their detention, which places the detainees outside the protection of the law. International treaties ratified by the United States prohibit incommunicado detention of persons in secret locations,” and that “none on this list has been arraigned or criminally charged, and government officials, speaking anonymously to journalists, have suggested that some detainees have been tortured or seriously mistreated in custody.”